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My Country: Contemporary Art from Black Australia
Auckland Art Gallery
March 28 – July 20
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is bringing the largest and most significant exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian art yet seen in New Zealand to Auckland in March.
My Country showcases the breadth of recent work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists, and the connections the artists have with their land and nation. Highlighting the many relationships to place and sparking debate as to the politics of land, My Country celebrates the powerful art of Indigenous Australians today.
The exhibition which comes to New Zealand thanks to support from the Australia Council for the Arts has been selected from the collections of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane for Auckland Art Gallery, the only venue outside Australia to present these works.
My Country offers alternative views of Australian history seen through the eyes of artists, and creative perspectives on contemporary life. Nearly 100 works by over 40 artists, such as Vernon Ah Kee, Richard Bell, Bindi Cole, Fiona Foley, Mirdidingkingathi Juwarrnda Sally Gabori, Tony Albert and filmmaker Warwick Thornton present personal, ancestral and indigenous perspectives on their past and present relations with the vast expanse of the Australian continent.
In sensitive and provocative works, the artists convey the stories and experiences of Black Australia through drawings, photographs, film, carvings, paintings and installations. Warwick Thornton has had an international career winning the Camera d'Or first-film prize at Cannes for his film Samson and Delilah substance abuse and poverty, looking at the problems facing Australia's remote Indigenous communities: violence. The Cannes jury described it as the best love film they had seen for many years.
Included with My Country is Kangaroo Crew, a Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Children’s Art Centre exhibition developed in collaboration with Indigenous Australian artist Gordon Hookey, from the Waanyi people. The free and family-friendly Kangaroo Crew explores the artist’s story of four kangaroos whose home on a sacred hill is threatened by the arrival of myna birds. Kangaroo Crew offers young visitors the opportunity to engage with the story through an animated film, hands-on and multimedia activities, and paintings by the artist.
Auckland Art Gallery Director, Rhana Devenport, says, ‘Auckland Art Gallery has a strong commitment to supporting indigenous art and artists, as seen through our collection of Maori and Pacific art and through our exhibitions programme.’
‘My Country, however, is the first exhibition of Indigenous Australian contemporary art of this depth and scale in New Zealand. This exhibition not only strengthens our leadership in fostering and promoting indigenous art, but also deepens our relationships with other leading galleries throughout the Asia Pacific region. The expansion of the exhibition through film, discussion and the interactive artist project for children and families will offer rich experiences for visitors.’
Auckland Art Gallery Principal Curator, Zara Stanhope, says, ‘My Country offers fresh insights into Indigenous Australia and the creativity of its artists.’
‘While New Zealanders are familiar with Maori culture, many of us don’t know Indigenous Australia. This exhibition reveals the individual and collective experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in ways that are personal and political. The art in this exhibition will be new, but has resonances with history and life in New Zealand. It’s important we recognise these artists and the relevancy of their message in Australia and within an international context.’
In addition to the Indigenous Australian art shown in the exhibition, indigenous New Zealand works feature permanently at Auckland Art Gallery as part of its collection show, Toi Aotearoa. Maori art also takes centre stage in 2014 in Five Maori Painters, an upcoming exhibition scheduled to coincide with My Country. This important exhibition of contemporary art traces the development of Maori painting from the 1970s to the present day, surveying the work of Kura Te Waru Rewiri, Saffronn Te Ratana, Robyn Kahukiwa, Emily Karaka and Star Gossage. Five Maori Painters is open from February 23 – June 20 and entry is free.